Diabetes is a condition that can cause your blood sugar to be consistently high. This, in turn, can damage your blood vessels, including those in your eyes - this is diabetic retinopathy. These blood vessels are very important because they supply your retina, the part of your eye that processes light and is crucial for sight.
If untreated, diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness. However, it usually develops gradually over time and can be avoided by:
Diabetic retinopathy affects an estimated 1.5 million in the UK – that’s just over two in 100 people. Sadly 1,600 people every year lose their sight as a result of diabetes.
Causes of diabetic retinopathy
Too much sugar in your blood over time can block the tiny blood vessels that supply your retina. In an attempt to restore blood flow, your eye grows new blood vessels but they don’t develop properly and can leak, causing damage to the retina.
Risks of diabetic retinopathy
You’re more likely to get diabetic retinopathy if:
You probably won’t be able to tell in the early stages, which is why it’s important to go for regular screening. Early detection and treatment can help stop it getting worse.
See your GP or diabetes care team immediately if:
Everyone with diabetes who is aged 12 or older should be screened each year for diabetic retinopathy. During retinal screening, you’ll be given eye drops to enlarge your pupils then photographs of your retina will be taken and sent away for analysis and diagnosis.
If you’re diagnosed with retinopathy, it'll be graded according to how far it’s progressed.
Treatment will depend on the stage and grading of your condition.
Controlling your diabetes can prevent or delay your condition getting worse, especially in the early stages. You should:
If your diabetic retinopathy is more advanced you may be offered: